Chavez awaits MLB evaluation before being activated

Via Marc Carig, infielder Eric Chavez took a concussion test today and is waiting for MLB clearance before he can be activated off the 7-day DL. He’s eligible to come off today but he’ll likely have to wait until tomorrow at the earliest.

Chavez suffered whiplash and a possible concussion last week diving for a ground ball at third base. He was hitting (.372 wOBA) during the little bit of playing time he received, but it’s tough to miss a bench player when he’s only been out a week. Brett Gardner‘s setback preserves Dewayne Wise’s roster spot for the foreseeable future, so the Jayson Nix era is likely to come to an end tomorrow.

Yanks about to shore up offense, defense with Gardner

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Update: And, of course, something has gone awry. According to Marc Carig Gardner is headed for an MRI. He “felt soreness and had swelling in his elbow.” Sigh.

By no means is Brett Gardner a superstar. With his physical skills it’s nearly impossible for him to reach that status. Yet he has played an important role for the Yankees in the last two-plus seasons. By providing speed on the base paths and superb defense in a spacious Yankee Stadium left field, he has provided plenty of value. The Yankees stand to improve plenty when he returns to action, presumably tonight.

In the Yankees’ 30 games to date they’ve trotted out six different left fielders. None has been particularly close to Gardner in terms of defensive value, and Raul Ibanez, who has started eight game in left, is on the polar opposite end of the defensive spectrum. Adding Gardner back into that mix will help the Yankees pitchers greatly. There will be no more Ibanez dives, which occur in slow motion even though the ball is moving in real time. That substitution alone will save substantial runs. Even over the other, less terrible defenders, Gardner is worth a few runs every week.

On the offensive side of the ball the Yanks will also benefit with Gardner’s return. Yankee left fielders have hit .216/.304/.343; that .647 OPS ranks 21st in baseball. Gardner, for his career, has hit .265/.355/.368. That .723 OPS would rank 11th in the majors. It’s hard to believe that Gardner, an atypical left fielder in terms of offensive prowess, would provide the Yankees with an upgrade. Yet that is pretty clearly the case. That doesn’t even take into account Gardner’s value on the base paths. Last year Yankees’ left fielders stole 44 bases, six more than any other team. This year they have just two, which is tied for 14th place.

While Gardner’s skill set seems odd for his position, he’s not alone as a defensive-minded left fielder with on-base skills and speed. The Rays have a similar player in Desmond Jennings, who, like Gardner, figures to return from injury tonight. For his career, which is quite a bit shorter than Gardner’s, Jennings has hit .258/.346/.429. He has a bit more power, but he’s not going to win a Silver Slugger any time soon. At the same time, he has plenty of speed; his eight stolen bases to date lead the majors. Also like Gardner, Jennings has the ability to play center field, but is blocked by an incumbent.

Getting Gardner back in the Yankees’ lineup will provide many benefits, both the run-scoring and to the defense. It might be difficult to fathom Gardner being such an important piece of the high-powered Yankees’ offense. Yet his speed and on-base skills provide plenty of value. At the same time, his defense in left is perhaps best in the league. His ability to run down difficult fly balls saves outs, which saves pitchers some labor. Given his fill-ins, we should all be glad to see No. 11 once again penciled into the lineup.

Update by Mike: Just as a heads up, Gardner is not listed as an available player on tonight’s lineup card, indicating that he has not been activated off the DL just yet. He did not play for Triple-A Empire State this afternoon and the team could still make a move before first pitch.

Top 10 starting pitchers against the Yankees by ERA since 2009

(photo: Rick Yeatts/Getty)

In the aftermath of yet another strong Jeff Niemann performance against the Yankees — whose seven-inning, one-run outing last night improved his career ERA against New York to 2.75 over six starts — I couldn’t help but wonder what Niemann’s overall numbers against the Bombers looked like in relation to other starters that have consistently had success when facing the team.

Going back to the beginning of 2009, here are the top 10 starters against the Yankees by lowest ERA (minimum three starts), courtesy of David Pinto’s wonderful day-by-day database:

Most of the names on this list would probably align with Yankee fans’ perceptions of pitchers the team typically struggles against — and frankly I was shocked that King Felix’s name didn’t top the list. His aberrant start last September slightly skewed his numbers, but prior to that completely out-of-character dud, no pitcher in baseball had had more success against the Yankees. Felix had thrown 40 innings of six-run ball (1.35 ERA) against the Yankees, including 24 innings of one-run ball (0.38 ERA!) at Yankee Stadium dating back to the beginning of 2010, and not having been saddled with a loss against the Bombers since May 3, 2008.

However, there are a couple of eye-openers — I can’t say I expected Carl Pavano to make the top 10, although I suppose that makes some sense given his unique brand of right-handed slop. And the other is Niemann, who, believe it or not, has the third-lowest ERA among all starters against the Yankees since the beginning of 2009, his first full season in the bigs. Now, I don’t mean to knock on Niemann, who clearly has the Yankees’ number, but it does seem a bit odd that a hurler who’s been a decidedly average — if not below-average — right-hander during his career (102 ERA-; 105 FIP-) would be so successful against the best offensive team in baseball during that timeframe.

For the most part, aside from Niemann and Pavano, almost everyone else in that group makes sense — hard-throwing, high-strikeout right-handers, but I was also curious to see whether there were any other similarities among this group that might uncover why they’ve routinely stymied the Bombers’ bats. Courtesy of Brooks’ Pitcher Cards, here’s what each pitcher in the top 10 throws and how hard they throw it:

Here’s where things get interesting. Four of the top five pitchers in this study throw a sinker more than 30% of the time, and the fifth — Niemann — just misses that cutoff, at 29% of the time. Additionally, both Pavano and Jake Arrieta are also sinker-heavy, which means that seven of the top 10 throw a sinker more than 25% of the time.

Of course, it’d be easy to say, “well maybe the Yankees just stink against sinkers,” but that’s not even remotely true, as they have the second-best wSI/C in baseball since 2009. Still, there’s something about this variety of sinkerballer — several of whom also prominently feature a curve (Hernandez, Niemann, Haren and Arrieta each go to the hook more than 10% of the time) — that seem to have the Yankees’ goose cooked.

Amateur Links: First Round Slot, Top 100, IFAs

(Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

We’re less than four weeks away from the amateur draft and less than eight weeks away from the start of the international free agent signing period, the two primary ways for teams to acquire young talent. The new Collective Bargaining agreement really hampers things with its new spending restrictions — designed to keep money away from the players and in the owner’s pockets — but there’s nothing that can be done about that. It’s just a new challenge for the 30 front offices, essentially.

We’re probably still a few weeks away from hearing about the Yankees having interest in specific players, but there’s still a ton of draft and international free agent news to recap. Let’s get to it…

First Round Slot Money: $1.6M

The Yankees will have just north of $4.19M to spend on the first ten rounds of the draft this year thanks to the new CBA, and $1.6M of that $4.19M is the slot value for their first round pick  (#30 overall) according to Jim Callis. That’s up about 46% from last year’s slot value and if the Yankees pay their first rounder straight slot money, it will be the sixth largest bonus they’ve ever given to a drafted player.

Teams can exceed slot for individual picks without penalty, but they can’t do the same for the draft pool overall. So the Yankees can pay their first rounder for than $1.6M but can’t pay their picks in the top ten rounds more than $4.19M collectively if they want to avoid surrendering future picks and paying the tax.

Law’s Top 100 Draft Prospects

Players have mostly sorted themselves out now that the college and high school seasons are nearly complete, and we have a clearer picture of who will be selected when. Injury is probably the biggest factor at the point, at least in terms of a player drastically changing their draft status. Keith Law posted his list of the top 100 draft prospects two days ago, though you do need a subscription to read the entire thing. Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton remains atop the rankings and is now followed by Puerto Rico high school shortstop Carlos Correa. The consensus seems to be that if you want impact talent this year, you’re going to have to go after prep players. The college crop is solid but not mind-blowing like last year.

Personal fave Carson Kelly, a high school third baseman/right-hander from Oregon, ranks 27th on KLaw’s list. That gives me some hope that he’ll be around when the Yankees pick, not that I expect them to draft him or anything. Here’s my write-up on Kelly.

Gaming The International Free Agent System

The new CBA has restricting spending on international free agents as well, an avenue the Yankees have used to acquire young talent quite prominently throughout the years. Each club will have $2.9M to spend on international players this year (starting July 2nd) before switching over to a sliding scale based on winning percentage in the future. The more you win, the less you get to spend.

Ben Badler wrote about how teams can essentially get around that $2.9M limit this year, including some shady under-the-table dealings. The article is free for everyone, so you don’t need a subscription. It’s worth noting that the article is speculative and not actual reporting of what teams have been/will be doing. I know this much though: if there’s a loophole in the system, someone will exploit it.

David Robertson & Turning The Page

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Nothing in baseball is more deflating than grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory, the dreaded blown save/loss combination in the ninth inning. The Yankees flirted with disaster on Tuesday before getting the 27th out but were not as fortunate last night. David Robertson‘s reign as the team’s closer is off the very shaky start, as in seven baserunners in 1.2 innings shaky. Blown saves are bad enough, but blown saves this early in a player’s closing career raise serious questions.

No one asked me, but I think Robertson is very capable of closing not just in the big leagues, but for a big-time contender like the Yankees. The stuff is obviously there and based on the last three years, the competitiveness appears to be there as well. That said, I think David’s getting a little too caught up in the moment and is trying to be too fine right now. He’s trying to be Mariano rather than just being himself, so to speak. As Boone Logan said after the game, Robertson might be “overthinking a little bit instead of just letting it go.”

Bad things usually happen whenever an athlete thinks, and I think Robertson’s just trying to be perfect rather than himself. He’s not Cory Wade (no offense, Cory), he doesn’t need to paint the black and fool hitters to be successful. That 31.8% career strikeout rate isn’t an accident; Robertson can make mistakes over the plate and get away with them because his fastball is lively and his curveball cracks like a whip. Yeah, there is less margin for error in the ninth inning, but one of the absolute biggest mistakes Robertson can make is getting away from what got him in the closer job in the first place.

For what it’s worth, David stood at his locker and answered every question following last night’s game. It doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things but accountability is always appreciated, especially when the alternative is ducking reporters and making it appear as though he doesn’t care. I don’t think not caring has ever been an issue here.

“Just a sad way to end the game,” said Robertson last night. “It’s going to happen. You’re going to lose games. It’s the worst feeling in the world. Mo does it, he comes back the next day and he’s the same guy. He goes right back out there and does his thing. I’m going to have to do that tomorrow.”

Of course, Robertson almost certainly will not get a chance to redeem himself today. He’s pitched in very stressful situations in each of the last two days and Joe Girardi doesn’t like to run his relievers out there three days in a row, especially this early in the season. I do think it’s important for Robertson to get back out there relatively soon though, even in a non-save situation just so he doesn’t dwell on last night’s disaster. Turning the page is a lot easier to do when you’re not sitting around waiting for your next appearance. Blowing saves is part of life, so Robertson just needs to work through this and be ready to go next time he’s called upon.

Robertson blows save in ugly loss to Rays

Whenever a team has beaten the Yankees with a ninth inning rally over the last 15 years, there was nothing more you could do than tip your cap because you knew they beat the best in Mariano Rivera. Wednesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Rays was a stunning culmination of every Yankees fans’ worst nightmare in the post-Mo era.

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Blown Save

It took David Robertson all of six pitches to load the bases in the ninth inning. Sean Rodriguez led off with a first pitch ground ball single through the left side, Brandon Allen followed up with a solid first pitch line drive single to right, then Ben Zobrist drew a four-pitch walk. Six pitches, three base runners, and one of them was a walk. That’s hard to do.

The Houdini Act finally caught up to Robertson on Wednesday night, as his team handed him a one-run lead and he couldn’t convert it to a win. B.J. Upton plated the tying run with a sacrifice fly — Nick Swisher nearly threw the runner out at the plate, surprisingly — and Matt Joyce broke things open with a two-strike, three-run homer one batter later. It was a total Yankee Stadium cheapie off the top of the wall in right-center, but they all count the same. It was the first homer Robertson allowed to a left-handed batter in more than two years, since Matt Wieters got him in Baltimore in May 2010.

Blown saves do not sit well with the natives, and there are going to be a lot of questions about the security of the ninth inning over the next few weeks. It’s the nature of beast. Robertson is as qualified to close as anyone, but he’s going to have to show everyone he can actually do it. This is a results town. “Tomorrow can’t come fast enough,” said David after the game and that’s all anyone can do, turn the page and look forward to the next game. At some point soon, Robertson will have a chance to redeem himself.

He Belongs

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

David Phelps is going to lose his rotation spot this weekend through no fault of his own, really. Andy Pettitte is coming back and someone has to go, and it’s very likely the rookie will head back to the bullpen. Other than throw a no-hitter, there was pretty much nothing Phelps could have done to save his job against the Rays, but he took care of business and showed the team that whenever they need another starter — and they inevitably will at some point — he’s the man for the job.

A double and two walks made the first inning a bit of a nightmare, but Phelps escaped unscathed by getting Will Rhymes to ground out weakly to second. That started a string of seven straight and 12 of 13 retired by the Yankees’ right-hander before he ran out of gas with two outs in the fourth. Having spent most of the year in the bullpen, hitting the wall at 75-80 pitches isn’t a surprise. Phelps allowed another double to Ben Zobrist and issued two straight walks before being lifted for Boone Logan, who struck out Matt Joyce to end the threat.

Four walks, three strikeouts, five ground balls, four fly balls, and two doubles allowed in 4.2 innings doesn’t look great in the box score, but Phelps sure looked like he belonged on Wednesday night. The starting pitching has started to sort itself out over the last two weeks or so, and part of that turn around has to do with Phelps’ solid work to bridging the gap between the awful Freddy Garcia and the un-retired Pettitte. Nice job, kiddo.


Not to absolve Robertson of anything — bottom line, he’s gotta close the game out — but the Yankees can’t expect to win many games by scoring only one run. Not against an AL East rival and definitely not in Yankee Stadium. The only run they did score came on a two-out opposite field double from Robinson Cano in the very first inning, driving in Derek Jeter all the way from first. The Yankees were a slightly better relay throw away from being shutout.

Unsurprisingly, the team went hitless in eight at-bats with men in scoring position. That’s a pretty good explanation of why they only scored the one run. The worst instance of RISPFAIL came in the sixth, after Alex Rodriguez stole third (!) with one out. Mark Teixeira couldn’t put the ball in play and struck out, then Nick Swisher flew out to end the inning after an 11-pitch at-bat. The Yankees also had runners on first and second in the eighth before Tex grounded into a well-turned inning-ending double play. One run’s not enough, fellas.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)


Give Joe Girardi major props for lifting Phelps when he did. It would have been very easy to leave him in to face Joyce in an effort to get him a win, but the quick hook — and Boone’s four sliders — preserved the one-run lead in the middle innings. We all wanted to see Phelps escape the jam and stuff, but the team win is more important and Girardi make a big-time move to help the cause. Too bad they couldn’t finish it off.

It’s pretty easy to forget that before Robertson’s blow save, Rafael Soriano nearly coughed things up in the eighth. A throwing error by Cano put runners at first and second with no outs, but Soriano escaped the inning with a strikeout, a great play on a hot shot ground ball by Teixeira, and a fly ball. Big ups to Cory Wade for retiring all four men he faced between Logan and Soriano.

Jeter became the fastest Yankee ever (ever!) to 50 hits in a season with his first inning excuse-me single. He did it in just 30 games. Coming into Wednesday night, Derek had six more hits than any other player in the majors. That’s not a small margin, folks.

Cano, A-Rod, and Swisher all had two hits while Jeter, Raul Ibanez, and Russell Martin had one each. Robbie’s double was the only extra-base hit and Ibanez was the only batter to draw a walk. The Yankees have only drawn 20 walks in their last nine games, well below their usual rate. It’s not a coincidence that they’ve only scored 3.2 runs per game during that stretch.

Two streaks came to an end on Wednesday night. Robertson’s scoreless streak dating back to September 1st of last year ended at 27 innings, and Curtis Granderson‘s streak of reaching base in 28 consecutive games came to an end as well. Both were bound to end sometime.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Now that’s an eyesore, yikes. has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

It’s a battle of ace left-handers in the rubber match Thursday night, when CC Sabathia gets the ball against David Price. If you want to check that one out, give RAB Tickets a look for the latest and greatest deals.

Betances dominant in Triple-A win

Kevin Goldstein identified Tyler Austin as one of this year’s pop-up guys, meaning someone who has raised their prospect stock considerably since the start of the season. You need a Baseball Prospectus subscription to read the entire article, but the Austin write-up is at the top and not behind the paywall. In other words, go read it.

Meanwhile, Doug Bernier was put on the DL with an oblique strain. With he and Ramiro Pena (groin/quad) on the shelf, the Triple-A squad is down to their third string shortstop, otherwise known as the Double-A utility infielder.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Columbus)
LF Brett Gardner: 1-2, 1 R, 1 3B, 2 BB, 1 K — played seven innings in the field (replaced by Cole Gardner, who didn’t come to the plate) which is typical rehab stuff … the triple was a double that he hustled into a three-bagger … unless he wakes up with some serious soreness, I have to think we’ll see him in the Bronx tomorrow
2B Kevin Russo: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB
1B Steve Pearce: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — only eight hits in his last ten games, but three of them have left the yard
DH Jack Cust, CF Colin Curtis & SS Yadil Mujica: all 0-3 — Cust walked and whiffed … Curtis struck out
RF Ronnie Mustelier: 2-4, 1 2B — six hits in 19 at-bats (.316) since the promotion
3B Brandon Laird: 0-4, 2 K
C Frankie Cervelli: 1-3, 2 K
RHP Dellin Betances: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 10/2 GB/FB — 62 of 97 pitches were strikes (63.9%) … first batter of the game hit a solo homer and the walks didn’t come until the seventh and eighth innings, so there were a whole lotta outs in between … easily his best start of the season and his best since early last August
RHP Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K — eight of 11 pitches were strikes (72.8%)

[Read more…]